The slaying of unarmed and from reports distressed motorist Renisha McBride in Dearborn Heights near Detroit casts yet another ugly glare on the extreme peril to black women. In the past few years, the number of black women that have been slain by police, brutalized by officers, or as in the case of McBride, slain by a homeowner, in several cities has at times drawn headlines and protests. This is separate from the endless tales of black women who have been beaten, tasered and threatened during routine stops or street searches by police officers often with no charges filed against them, or whatever charges were filed were soon dismissed.
The black women that have been victimized have had several things in common apart from their gender and race. They were unarmed, and in nearly all the cases were not committing a crime. Their victimizers were not charged in their assault or killing. The McBride case seems to fit all three of these categories with the sole exception of the still dangling possibility that a charge may be slapped on the homeowner. Even if the homeowner in the case is charged and justice demands that, it does not change the fact that the shooter initially wasn't. The perpetrator's attorneys claim and prosecutors seem to think there are circumstances that warrant either exoneration or for them to foot drag in making an arrest.
The indisputable fact that McBride was unarmed, apparently was not in the home, and was looking for help, should have been more than enough to warrant some charge. Prosecutors have a plethora of lesser charges that they routinely slap on those who resort to gun play in highly questionable situations. If there were truly valid reasons why a homeowner feels they have to kill no matter whether deliberate or accidental, then they would come out at a trial or during preliminary legal proceedings.
None of this initially happened in the McBride slaying. This then raises the always troubling suspicion the race played a role in her slaying. There's the horrid history of racial stereotyping, profiling if you will, that indelibly link crime and violence with African-Americans. This linkage isn't just confined to black men. There's the feminization of racial stereotyping too. While black men are frequently typed as violent, drug dealing "gangstas," black women are typed as sexually loose, conniving, and untrustworthy. In effect, many believe that black women offenders are menaces to society too. Much of the public and many in law enforcement are deeply trapped in the damaging cycle of myths, misconceptions and crime fear hysteria about crime-on-the-loose women.
The stereotype when lethal force has been used against young blacks has in a grotesque way given even more deadly justification to the dubious use of the stand your ground defense in these cases. The McBride case is no different. The delay in bringing any charges almost certainly hinges on Michigan's stand your ground law. The key provision of the law states that individuals may shoot if the individual honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another individual. The operative words that virtually give anyone a license to use such force is "honestly and reasonably." That's a murky legal minefield that's wide open to individual interpretation and prosecutors know this.
This is where racial bias rams its way in, and further muddies a highly suspect killing given the relentless, and deeply encoded negative typecasting of young blacks as inherent criminal menaces and threats. This was evident with brutal effect in the slaying of Trayvon Martin. Defense attorneys, a legion of supporters of Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, and some in the media, were more determined to put Martin and his alleged past misdeeds on trial than Zimmerman.
In far too many cases where young black women have been victimized there were endless and predictable efforts to dig up any and every bit of damaging information about their history or lifestyle to in effect virtually blame them for their own unjustified killing. The disturbing underlying public narrative about them was that their slaying was more than justified not solely because of their alleged reckless acts, but because of their alleged past.
The family and associates of McBride demand that simple justice dictate that a charge, some charge, be brought against McBride's killer. It's then up to a court to determine the truth of what precipitated the killing. This must happen in McBride's case. The fact that it hasn't and has taken so long again casts the ugly glare on the continuing peril to black women.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson